When Amsterdam-based producer duo Know V.A. stands in the booth, a melancholic sound blows out of the speakers and on to the dance floor. Once that’s settled the crowd, their sound evolves into an energizing beat—an experimental and cinematic mix of various genres their Facebook page describes as “?????”. Whatever you call it, Know V.A.’s music takes your mind on an introspective journey, and invites your body to swing from sad and spacy to sharp, high-paced moves. Recently released track Just to Hurt, as Feico de Muinck Keizer and Marijn Brussaard explain, was born from a combination of dissatisfaction and clouded thoughts, but finishes with a lucid mindset—a procedure that mirrors Know V.A.’s revitalizing, dystopian style.
What does your moniker, Know Various Artists, refer to?
Feico: It referred to an urge to stay open to different genres, in art and music. To keep discovering. In our music, productions and performances, we portray our own journey. It is the result of our own discoveries.
Hurt and heartbreak often function as a source of inspiration for artists. Does to apply to your music as well? If so, how?
Feico: Normally I create something and afterwards seek for a title that fits the concept and feeling I had while making the track or it says unnamed until it fulfils a function. However, this time, coincidentally it was different. First off I would have to give the credits to Drake. He has this song (Know Yourself) where he raps: “I want that Bugatti, just to hurt”. When I first heard that, it really stuck to me. I thought it was a pretty powerful thing to say, but at the same time vulnerable too. He only wants that Bugatti, while he implies that he doesn’t really need it, just to impress people and make them jealous. To make them go over all their life choices again and remind them that they are not Drake. But at the same time that’s also admitting he needs the hater to support his own belief of success. He needs them to confirm his accomplishments, which is in a way insecure and dependent. Not by awe, but he wants them hurt, probably because he felt hurt when he saw others have what he didn’t have.
Anyway, I’m not Drake’s shrink, but this is something that I recognised myself. I too have been hurt when I was on the sideline, seeing people do stuff that I wanted, make music where you think, I could’ve done that. So whenever I feel that, I try to flip that emotion in a drive to make something better myself, to achieve what I want. I listened to that track on my way to the studio and I thought: today I’m going to make something just to hurt. So in that way, envy is an emotion and inspiration that pushes me to work extra. To not feel bad about insecurity, but see it as an opening to progress.
Marijn: Feeling shit and having a clouded mind is definitely a way to make some really sad music—but mostly for some rough sketches. It never really works when you have to finish a track. That requires a more clear, restful mind.
With one of you studying neuroscience and the other acting/performing, how and when do you find time for music?
Marijn: Well, obviously it’s very busy but I have periods of working on music and periods of doing other work. I feel that it really helps my work flow to not be behind a computer too long. The variety is perfect.
Feico: I too need the variety to make both work, although I am behind a computer almost 24/7. But when I’m tired of uni work and research, I recharge when making music and, vice versa, during my uni work I get inspired to make music again. I always plan at least one day of the week in the studio, closing myself off from the world for the whole day, so it’s something to look out to.
Do you see music or art as a form of therapy or do you rather create from a positive place?
Marijn: This is really a difficult question as music has become such a big part of our lives. With that I mean, it’s not one thing or the other. I would say creating reflects all of the the ups and downs.
Feico: Yes the creativity doesn’t always arise from a positive place, but both. Our music however always appears melancholic, cinematic to me, end-of-the-world music, hence the Dystopian Club music label that we put on our output.
Which qualities do you admire most about each other?
Feico: The main thing is that the other can always pick up where the other left of. Sometimes we have to have some good discussions on how to sync our conceptual ideas and goals, but we always do sync. We send projects back and forth, it’s an ideal way of feedback. After your own ears have grown tired of the track the other hears new stuff that should be added, or stuff that shouldn’t be there. You keep each other in check, making sure that only the best productions come to the surface.
What’s the most beautifully painful track you’ve ever listened to?
Feico: Batty’s Theme or Acid Rain by Lorn, the whole Maze to Nowhere epos actually, I’d want him do a live set at my funeral.
Marijn: The Disintegration Loops (dlp1.1) by William Basinski. It’s both so triumphant and sad. It was made by repeated snippets of 5 to 10 seconds played on old analog tape that, over the course of one hour, literally falls apart. “I’m recording the life and death of a melody” , Basinski said about it in an interview. “It just made me think of human beings, you know, and how we die.” For me it’s a healing piece.